"What, NOW?" I say, horrified, to the CFO. "You only gave them a bath this morning! They were wide awake!"
"Yes. I just can't stand it anymore" he says, hunched over his spreadsheet. "If not now, when? I just can't get the weight length ratio optimal; and if we leave it too late the timing gets complex. "
"But, but.. I thought you wanted those individual thermo-stable ice cream containers to store them in? I haven't got any!"
"It must. be. today" he says through gritted teeth. "Find me some boxes"
A thorough rummage through my secret cupboard yields two old macaroon boxes, a Shinzi Katoh glass box, and a rather stylish wooden box from Royal Bosch containing two ultra fine white porcelain votive holders I can't bear to give away yet. All are sacrificed on the altar of tortoise comfort. The CFO takes his power drill and makes several holes in each. We head downstairs to where the CFO has dragged the tortoise house outside to cool its inhabitants down.
"Have you checked their ears are flat and they don't have runny noses or an offensive smell?" I ask anxiously.
"Of course I have. Now get a bloody tortoise and put it in a box"
"But, but, they're still awake! And all scrabbly! Isn't that inhumane?"
"We'll leave them out here for an hour or so pre-refrigeration. It's 6 degrees. The fridge is 5°. They'll be pretty calm once they're cool"
We start packing tortoises in boxes. Carapuce looks at me with an unfathomable tortoise expresssion as I shut the lid of his box on him. I can hardly bear to look and am filled with foreboding. The largest one does not fit in the largest box, provoking an outburst of shakass and jesuzemann. Even when they are all neatly packed away, the dreadful noise of small scrabbly claws worrying at cardboard fills the room.
"Google wasn't this lively when we put her in hibernation!" I whimper.
"If you recall, Google was also dead when we removed her from hibernation" says the CFO levelly.
"Don't, this is stressing me out enough without a reminder of that, thanks. You are finding this horribly stressful too, aren't you?"
"We've done our best. Now shut that box and we'll leave them to cool". Despite his apparent zen fatalism, the CFO pours us both a large vodka. There is an odd throbbing pulse visible on one side of his temple. We drink the vodka swiftly and get another.
An hour later, we are stacking tortoise boxes in the fridge. The spawn are impressively disinterested, as ever; Lashes wonders whether if we put them in the freezer they will turn into tortoise ice lollies and mimes licking them elaborately. We try to discourage his desire for experimentation. I am moaning feebly.
"I don't liiiike this! I had just decided on a name for my tortoise if it survives hibernation too. I'm going to call her Hadron Collider"
"Well, hopefully you still can. If we don't need her for body parts."
Does not contain macaroons.
"Please tell me noone is moving in there at least"
"Shut up, will you? It's not helping"
Squalor watchers will observe the 'nature morte' in the drawer above, featuring two ancient, yellowing savoy cabbages.
We shut the fridge door and look at each other grimly.
"You definitely did everything you could" I reassure the CFO, putting a tentative hand on his shoulder. "Noone could have been more thorough in tortoise husbandry".
He exhales through his nose and grinds his teeth. I fear this will make for a tense six weeks.